OPINION – The Kunming Declaration sounds the alarm for biodiversity conservation in the Great Bay region

Macao Affairs | december 2021

By Zhang Ruopiao

On October 13, 2021, the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in Kunming, Yunnan Province, adopted a declaration on the need for concerted effort and a momentum to stop and reverse the loss of biodiversity. . The Kunming Declaration embodies the political determination of the Chinese government to meet the challenges of biodiversity and jointly build a community of life on Earth. The Declaration commits to ensuring the formulation, adoption and implementation of an effective global biodiversity framework post-2020.

Zhang Ruopiao
Member of the Executive Board
Macau Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility in Greater China (MICSRGC)

The framework aims to reverse the current loss of biodiversity and put it on track for recovery by 2030, at the latest, to achieve the 2050 vision of living in harmony with nature. Along with the Kunming Declaration, China’s first white paper (an in-depth report), Conservation of biodiversity in China, was released in October this year, promising a new chapter for ecological conservation in China.

The term “biodiversity” refers to all of the variability of life on Earth, as well as the environments in which it thrives. The ecological goods and services of biodiversity provide the foundations for human civilization and long-term development (WWF (2018). Living Planet Report 2018). However, the world is facing a critical situation of unprecedented species extinction. The loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystems pose a major threat to human survival and sustainable development. In 1972, the United Nations convened the Conference on the Human Environment. The participating countries signed the Declaration on the Human Environment, in which the conservation of biological resources was included in the 26 principles. In 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force.

China is a vast country with complex and diverse landscapes and climates, making it one of the richest countries in the world in terms of biodiversity. However, rapid urbanization and industrialization have posed new dangers for species and ecosystems, as well as increased demand for their habitats. The adverse effects on biodiversity have been exacerbated by the overexploitation and uncontrolled growth of biological resources. Pollution has had a significant influence on biodiversity and aquatic and river ecosystems. Thus, China’s rapid economic expansion is not sustainable as it has exceeded its environmental capacity and ecological biocapacity in recent decades. To mitigate biodiversity loss, China has made significant progress in building an environmental reserve system and safeguarding endangered species since 2017. The Ministry of Natural Resources and provincial ecological red lines have been established. In addition, the monitoring of nature reserves has been strengthened to unprecedented levels and considerable and fruitful experience in biodiversity conservation has been gained.

On February 18, 2019, the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council released the outline of the development plan for the Guangdong Bay Area, Hong Kong and Macao. The plan proposed to apply a strict ecological protection system while innovating a green and low-carbon development model. Over the past decades, urban development in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has caused ecological damage. For example, during industrialization and urbanization in the Panyu and Nansha districts of Guangzhou, most of the wetland landscapes were replaced by infrastructure, such as bridges, roads and ports. This change has resulted in serious damage to the insect biodiversity there.

According to Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao Great Bay Area Ecological Footprint Report 2019, the Grande Baie region has only 0.27 hectares worldwide of biological capacity per capita, a quarter of the national average and a sixth of the world average. The Kunming Declaration also sounds the alarm bells for the conservation of biodiversity in this region. the Guangdong Marine Ecological Red Line Report shows that resource constraints on the coast of the Grande Baie region are increasing. In addition, the rate of loss of coastal wetlands in this area is high and the quality of marine organisms is declining.

The natural systems and biochemical cycles that accompany biodiversity are prerequisites for the prosperity of the Grande Baie region. Over the next 10 to 20 years, the region’s population is expected to increase dramatically, placing greater challenges on the ecological system. After a series of biodiversity-related summits, the Greater Bay Area is launching various programs to promote regional biodiversity. Specifically, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Natural Resources jointly published the Key projects for biodiversity conservation in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Great Bay regionand the Three-Year Action Plan to Promote Ecological Protection, Restoration and Mitigation in the Coastal Zone of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Great Bay Region (2020-2022)These action plans further strengthen cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao in data sharing, scientific research and innovation to improve ecological corridors and biodiversity protection networks.

However, this article argues that most ecosystem services “provided” by nature are public goods, which fall under the category of “externalities” in the economic sense. Therefore, we cannot expect market forces alone to solve the problem of biodiversity loss. Government policy interventions are essential.

The global devastation of the COVID-19 epidemic is a harbinger that we need to be aware of the close connection between man and nature and the catastrophic consequences of breaking that link. At the same time, we must also be aware that we have ignored the even greater risks to humanity posed by global climate change and the sharp decline in biodiversity to date. Biodiversity is linked to human well-being and constitutes an essential basis for human survival and development. COP-15 calls for integrating biodiversity conservation into long-term socio-economic and industrial development planning. The COP-15 and the Kunming Declaration shed light on how the international community must work together to face these major risks in terms of biodiversity. The Grande Baie region faces complex challenges and opportunities for conserving biodiversity, and more than ever, placing biodiversity at the heart of sustainable development is essential for the future of ecological and community life and systems. who support them.

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